Melissa Bishop's parents preparing to cheer on the track star at Rio Games
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Eganville marked the start of the 2016 Rio Summer Games Thursday with the raising of banner in support of Olympian Melissa Bishop. In the photo (left to right) are economic development co-ordinator Dana Jennings, Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy, Councillor Meredith Jamieson, with Sadie Jamieson, Joe Moore, Melissa's grandmother Tori Hawkins and her parents Alison and Doug Bishop.
EGANVILLE – When Melissa Bishop completes her profound Olympic journey in Rio de Janeiro, her biggest fans will be anxiously but proudly watching from the stands.
Seeing their daughter run in the 2012 London Summer Games seemed a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Doug and Alison Bishop. Truthfully, they didn’t expect to be going back to the world’s greatest sporting event four years later.
“She’s grown and learned a lot since the last Olympics,” Doug Bishop said Thursday, days before he and his wife fly to Brazil to join the 28-year-old track star. “She’s ready. She’s very ready. She’s going to give it everything she has,”
In the four years since Melissa placed sixth in her heat at London denying her a berth in the women’s 800-metre semifinal, she has not only vastly developed as a sprinter but backed it up. She won gold and the title at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. She then finished second at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in China smashing the national record set by Diane Cummins becoming the first Canadian to go below one minute 58 seconds with her time of 1:57.52.
During last month’s Canadian Track and Field Championships and Selection Trials in Edmonton, Melissa ran the 800-metre in 1:57.43 breaking her own national record. With Canada's Olympic team hoping to crack the 20-medal barrier for the first time since the Atlanta Games in 1996, Melissa is viewed as a medal contender. Her father believes she is peaking at just the right time heading into Rio with momentum.
“She’s the best version of the athlete that she can be right now,” he said.
If Melissa is feeling the pressure cooker that can be the Olympics, she isn’t showing it. However, a respite from all the attention and training doesn’t hurt either. Melissa was last home on the Canada Day weekend to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday.
“She wanted to come home, regroup and it was probably the best thing for her,” said Alison. “She’s ready for this big dance.”
The Bishops plan to be in Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro when their daughter runs in the 800-metre preliminary heats on Aug. 17. If all goes well, they will be back on Aug. 18 for the semifinals and the 800-metre final on Aug. 20.
Back home, the Opeongo High School graduate will be riding the hopes of not just folks here in the Upper Ottawa Valley but in the city of Windsor where Melissa attended university. There she trained with the Windsor Lancers track and field squad under head coach Dennis Fairall, who currently holds the most wins in Canadian university track and field history.
“She has two huge communities supporting her,” said Alison. “She’ll be excited to come home after it’s all over and share his experiences whichever way it goes.”
Throughout her rise on the national scene, Melissa has remained the same, humble small-town girl she’s always been, her folks contend. Doug said he will have one parting piece of advice to his daughter before she runs the race of her life – just believe in yourself.
“You don’t need luck anymore,” added Doug. “What’s going to win you the race is what you already have.”